Jonah Hex
dir Jimmy Hayward
scr Neveldine & Taylor
prd Akiva Goldsman, Andrew Lazar
with Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon, Wes Bentley, Aidan Quinn, Tom Wopat, John Gallagher Jr, Julia Jones, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
release US 18.Jun.10, UK 3.Sep.10
10/US Warner 1h21
Jonah Hex
A fine mess: Fox and Brolin

malkovich fassbender arnett
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Jonah Hex Based on the DC Comic, there's the germ of a great idea in this premise, but it's flattened by sledgehammer direction that smashes any possibility out of each scene. Sadly, the film's a real mess.

Bounty hunter Jonah (Brolin) is a Civil War veteran who was hideously scarred by the evil Quentin Turnbull (Malkovich). Years later, Turnbull is presumed dead but of course is very much alive, and as he threatens America's safety during the 1876 centennial celebrations, a military officer (Arnet) and the president himself (Quinn) call on Jonah to save the day. After his own close call with mortality, Jonah can talk to the dead, a skill that comes in handy as he tries to find Turnbull and stop his nefarious plan.

Honestly, is this the best screenwriters Neveldine & Taylor (of the outrageously inventive Crank movies) could come up with? A corny terrorism plot that seems to place the plot of a Tom Clancy novel in Will Smith's Wild Wild West movie. Besides missing the point entirely, this action-mayhem approach creates merely a noisy, uninvolving revenge thriller that doesn't have a single character who resembles a human being.

Brolin manages a bit of pathos as Jonah, but that's about it. Malkovich is great even when he sleepwalks through a role like this one. Fassbender gleefully chomps on the scenery as a tattooed nutcase. Arnett is miscast and then wasted. And poor Fox just seems to be here only to pant heavily in skimpy costumes. You barely even notice that solid actors like Shannon or Bentley are in this movie.

Essentially, the film feels like it was badly edited down from a much grander epic to a paltry 81 minutes. Perhaps the producers saw they were in trouble and chopped the effects budget, hacked it down to a PG-13 (all of the violence is bizarrely off-screen) and ramped up the explosions to try to get some action out of the opening weekend box office. Whatever happened, they lost the characters in the process, and this film will likely be forgotten when DC decides to reboot the franchise in a few years.

cert 12 themes, strong violence 20.Aug.10

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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall